Chicago-area engineer earns `Inventor of the Year' honor from Siemens

Osman Ahmed, a senior principal engineer for Siemens Building Technologies, Inc., has been selected "Inventor of the Year" by his company's parent company, Siemens AG, of Germany.

"This is a wonderful time of my life," said the father of two who makes his home in Hawthorn Woods, Ill., a short distance from Buffalo Grove, the U.S. headquarters of Siemens Building Technologies.

Ahmed's work involves research in micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), a specialized area of microchip technology that uses both the electrical and mechanical properties of silicon chips. MEMS serves as a core technology that can combine several building automation system functions, such as sensing, wireless communication, processing, and power management. The end result is that Siemens can now install a large number of these micro devices into a building to make it truly intelligent and, to a large degree, self-controlling.

Ahmed envisions buildings and homes in the not-so-distant future that will be able to "sense" the comfort level of occupants and instantly adjust settings for temperature, humidity, and other environmental parameters automatically.

For example, thousands of MEMs sensors could be embedded in a building's carpet or in the paint on the walls, to measure temperature, airflow or the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and, subsequently, transmit their data to a control system for action.

An employee of Siemens since 1988, Ahmed has applied for four separate patents related to his research team's current project--a partnership with the University of Florida--that involves creating and monitoring a controlled wireless microenvironment for laboratory animals.

"This is quite an honor, I'm really humbled to receive this award," said Ahmed, noting that Siemens has 45,000 employees, from Beijing to Munich to Princeton, who research and develop a wide range of sophisticated technologies for commercial applications in industries such as power generation, transportation, medical, industrial automation, and communications.

In recognition of his work, Ahmed will travel to the Siemens global headquarters in Munich to take part in an awards presentation. He will receive 40 shares of Siemens stock, a plaque, a trophy, a pin, and "a few other goodies." In announcing his selection, the company estimated that the work of Ahmed and his research team will result in significant cost savings on the installation of building automation systems.

Born and raised in India, Ahmed migrated to Bangladesh in 1973 and earned an undergraduate degree in engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, a master's degree from the University of Windsor (Canada) and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His doctoral dissertation, completed in 1996, addressed the application of artificial intelligence for controlling laboratory HVAC systems.

Ahmed's wife, Aftab, has a law degree from India but works in the Chicago area as a preschool teacher. Their older son, Aadil, is a junior at Stevenson High School and a budding medical scientist. Younger son Aaqib is an eighth grader at Fremont Middle School in Mundelein and is interested in becoming a lawyer.

Having lived in the United States for 20 years now, Ahmed said that he appreciates the benefits of living in "this great country." But occasionally, during weekends, the self-described technology hunter sets off in search of new discoveries that remind him of the country where he grew up: good Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine on Devon Avenue.

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